Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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WESTMINSTER ABBEY.—THE CHAPELS AND ROYAL TOMBS.
"A feeling sad came o'er me as I trod the sacred ground
Where Tudors and Plantagenets were lying all around;
I stepp'd with noiseless foot, as though the sound of mortal tread
Might burst the bands of the dreamless sleep that wraps the mighty dead!"
Tomb of King Sebert—St. Benedict's Chapel—St. Edmund's Chapel—St. Nicholas's Chapel—Henry VII.'s Chapel—The Royal Vault—An Authentic Ghost Story—Monument to Edward VI.—The Five Chapels—Tomb of Henry VII. and Queen—"Steenie" and his Funeral—Cromwell's Last Resting-place—The Old Royal Vault—Monuments to Mary and Elizabeth—The Chapel of St. Paul—A Punning Epitaph—St. Edward's Chapel, or Chapel of the Kings—Chantry of Henry V.—Tomb of Edward III.—The Coronation Chairs—Opening a Royal Tomb—Shrine of Edward the Confessor—Islip's Chapel and "The Ragged Regiment"—The Chapels of St. John, St. Andrew, and St. Michael.
The chapels at the east end of the Abbey Church are nine in number. Commencing on the south side by "Poets' Corner," and following the curve round to the north transept, we find them dedicated to the following saints:—St. Benedict, St. Edmund, St. Nicholas, St. Mary (Henry VII.'s Chapel), St. Paul, St. Edward, St. John, St. John the Baptist (commonly known as Islip's Chapel), St. John the Evangelist, St. Andrew, and St. Michael; but the three last named are now thrown into one. The kings buried in the Abbey are Sebert, Edward the Confessor, Henry III., Edward I., Edward III., Richard II., Henry V., Edward V., Henry VII., Edward VI., James I., Charles II., William III., and George II. Besides these there are fourteen queens, that is, five reigning sovereigns—Mary, Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary II., and Anne; the rest are the consorts of kings.
The tomb of Sebert, king of the East Saxons, who died in 616, and of Ethelgoda, his queen, is on the left of the gate of entrance to the chapels. The lower part of the tomb is covered by a plain arch forming a recess, and in the upper part seems to have been at one time richly adorned with paintings, of which there are slight traces left. Over the tomb, under a glass case, is preserved an elaborate work (measuring about eleven feet in length by three feet in height), which is supposed to have originally formed part of an altar decoration, and probably is of the fourteenth century.
"Henry III. performed two acts of pious respect to the remains of the founders of the Abbey, which," writes Pennant, "must not be omitted; he translated those of Sebert into a tomb of touchstone, beneath an arch made in the wall. Above this were paintings, long since defaced, done by order of the king, who was strongly imbued with a love of the arts." Horace Walpole has preserved, in his "Anecdotes of Painting," several of the royal instructions as to the number of mural decorations in this church. Among these is a direction for painting two cherubims "cum vultu hilari et jocoso."
The Chapel of St. Benedict is separated from the south transept and the ambulatory, or chancel aisle, simply by a screen of monuments and their railings. At the east end, where stood the altar of St. Benedict, is the tomb of Frances, Countess of Hertford, whose effigy, as Malcolm states, "lies precisely where the candlesticks and host formerly stood." The oldest tomb in this chapel is that of Simon de Langham, who was a monk, prior, and afterwards Abbot of Westminster, Archbishop of Canterbury, and a cardinal. He died in 1376. The monument is of the altar form, with the sides adorned with quatrefoils and shields of arms, and on it lies an effigy of the archbishop, robed and mitred; it was formerly surmounted with a wooden canopy. In this chapel lie also several of the deans of Westminster.
Between the Chapel of St. Benedict and that of St. Edmund is a monument to the children of Henry III. Although it is now sadly defaced, this monument appears to have been a very elaborate one, richly adorned with mosaic work. In the state records, there is the king's order for the erection of a monument in this place, "and for allowing Master Simon de Wells five marks and a half to defray his expenses, in bringing from the city a certain brass image, to set upon the tomb of his daughter Catherine; and for paying Simon de Gloucester, the king's goldsmith, seventy marks, for a silver image for the like purpose."
The Chapel of St. Edmund forms an hexagonal projection upon the passage leading from Palace Yard to "Poets' Corner." St. Edmund was Archbishop of Canterbury, and the anniversary held at his altar was on the 16th of November. An ancient wooden screen separates this chapel from the aisle. Here are several interesting tombs and monuments. On the east side of the doorway is the alabaster monument of John of Eltham, second son of Edward II., and so called from Eltham, in Kent, the place of his birth. The head of the statue is encircled in a coronet of large and small leaves, remarkable for being the earliest specimen of the kind. The details of plate-armour, surcoat, gorget, coroneted helmet, with other accessories, give great antiquarian interest to this work. It was formerly surmounted by a canopy, of which, however, no traces are now visible. Near it is a little altartomb of Petworth marble, with diminutive effigies of William of Windsor and Blanche of the Tower, children of Edward III., both of whom died young. Close by is a slab of stained marble, that is perhaps less remarkable for its elegance than for the inscription it bears, which is as follows:—"In this chapel lies interred all that was mortal of the most illustrious and most benevolent John Paul Howard, Earl of Stafford, who, in 1738, married Elizabeth, daughter of A. Ewens, of the county of Somerset, Esq. His heart was as truly great and noble as his high descent; faithful to his God; a lover of his country; a relation to relations; a detester of detraction; a friend to mankind. Naturally generous and compassionate, his liberality and his charity to the poor were without bounds. Being snatched away suddenly by death, which he had long meditated and expected with constancy, he went to a better life the 1st of April, 1762, having lived sixtyone years, nine months, and six days." On the west side of the doorway is the monument of William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, half-brother to Henry III.; it is an altar-tomb of stone, surmounted by a broken sarcophagus, on which is a recumbent effigy of the earl. The figure is of wood, and was originally covered with copper-gilt, as was the chest on which it lies. The earl was treacherously slain at Bayonne, in France, in 1296, and his body was brought to England for interment in this chapel. "An indulgence of one hundred days was granted to all devout people who should offer up prayers for his soul."
Among the remaining monuments in St. Edmund's Chapel are those of Monck, Bishop of Hereford (1661); the Duchess of Suffolk (1558); Francis Holles, son of the Earl of Clare (1622); Lady Jane Seymour (1560); Sir Bernard Brocas (1400); Sir Humphrey Bourchier (1470); Eleanor de Bohun, Duchess of Gloucester (1399)—this is a monumental brass, representing the deceased in her conventual dress, as a nun of Barking Abbey; Robert Waldby, Archbishop of York (1397); and Mary, Countess of Stafford (1693).
Next in order is the Chapel of St. Nicholas, in the centre of which is an altar-tomb surmounted with the effigies of Sir George Villiers, who died in 1605, and of his lady, Mary Beaumont, created in 1618 Countess of Buckingham. Their son was advanced by James I. to the dukedom of Buckingham. Under this tomb were deposited, long after her decease, the remains of Katharine Valois, queen of Henry V., who died at Bermondsey Abbey, Southwark, in 1437, and was buried in the lady chapel at the east end of that abbey, where she remained till her grandson, Henry VII., built his chapel, after which her remains found a temporary resting-place in a chest placed near the tomb of her husband. That her remains were not allowed to rest undisturbed, before their final consignment to the tomb in this chapel, may be gathered from the following entry in Pepys' diary, where, under date of March 23, 1667–8, we read:—"To Westminster Abbey, and there did see all the tombs very finely, having one with us alone; . . . and here we did see, by particular favour, the body of Queen Katharine of Valois; and I had the upper part of her body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a queen, and that this was my birthday, thirty-six years old, that I did kiss a queen." But what the particular point was which connected his thirtysixth birthday with such an act, is more than we are told in his narrative.
The most stately monument in this chapel, and indeed one of the most magnificent in the Abbey, is that erected by Lord Burleigh to the memory of Mildred, his wife, and their eldest daughter Ann, Countess of Oxford. It rises to the height of twenty-four feet, and is constructed of various coloured marbles, after a design of the Corinthian order. The Latin inscriptions, which are very long, were written by Lord Burleigh himself, and set forth the varied accomplishments and the virtues of the two ladies who are represented in effigy in the lower part of the monument. The figure of Lord Burleigh, in his robes, and in a kneeling attitude, appears in the upper part of the monument.
Leaving the Chapel of St. Nicholas, we at once pass into the stately portico of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called Henry VII.'s Chapel. The portico is beneath the oratory or chantry of Henry V., which forms an arch across the aisle directly east of his tomb. An ascent of twelve steps leads to the gates opening to the nave or body of the chapel; on the right and left are doors opening into the side aisles. The gates are of brass, most curiously wrought, forming a kind of framework, the panels of which are filled with the portcullis and crown, fleur-de-lis, the falcon and fetterlock, the thistle and crown, the united roses of York and Lancaster entwined in a crown, the initials R. H., the royal crown, and the three lions of England. The chapel itself forms the eastern extremity of the whole fabric, and is the most florid example of the perpendicular style of Gothic architecture that exists in this country; besides this, it is, in respect to its preservation, the most perfect example. We read that in the year 1502 Henry VII. took down the old and decayed "Lady Chapel," which hitherto stood here, and also a tavern that adjoined it, and erected on their site the splendid and elaborate structure which we now see before us. Leland calls this chapel "the miracle of the world;" and though his praise may well be pronounced extravagant, it is generally considered that the architectural splendour of this edifice is of the highest order. It has in England only one rival in the richness of its decoration, namely, King's College Chapel, at Cambridge. The roofs of both are among the glories of the later Gothic style. The cost of Henry VII.'s chapel was £14,000: a large sum at that day. The royal miser spared no expense in this piece of vanity and self-glorification.
The nave has five clustered columns on each side, the lower parts of which can be seen only in the side aisles, as they are hidden in the nave by the stalls of the Knights of the Bath, who were formerly installed here. The columns support four noble arches on each side, and the springing for the pendants of the roof; similar arches also divide the nave from the five small chapels at the east end. Immediately under the arches, and extending entirely round the chapel, is a range of demi-angels, projecting from the wall, in high relief. They support shields emblazoned with the devices of Henry VII.—the rose, portcullis, fleurde-lis, &c. Over these angels are rows of octangular pedestals and niches containing statues of saints, martyrs, and other venerable personages. The chapel is lighted by two ranges of windows, of which there are fourteen in the upper, and nineteen in the lower; they were formerly of painted or diapered glass, having in every pane a white rose, the badge of Lancaster, or an [H], the initial of the founder's name, &c., of which only a few are now remaining. In the upper window at the east end Henry VII. is represented in stained glass. Between the stone ceiling and the roof there is a spacious chamber lighted by Gothic openings through the walls.
The knights' stalls on either side of the nave are surmounted with canopies somewhat similar to those in the choir referred to in a preceding chapter; in them are fixed brass plates with the armorial bearings, &c., of the knights, and over them hang their banners, swords, and helmets. In front and below the stalls are seats for the esquires. The seats are so arranged as to form, when turned up, what are known as misereres. On these the monks and canons of former times, with the assistance of their elbows on the upper part of the stalls, half supported themselves during certain parts of their long services, and especially at the Miserere Psalm, so as not to be obliged always to stand or kneel. They are so contrived, that if the body became supine by sleep, they naturally fell down, and the unfortunate monk who rested upon it was thrown forward on to the pavement in front. The seats are fixed to the wall by hinges; when they are down nothing is to be seen, but upon turning them up we find those grotesque representations which were characteristics of the times in which they were carved. Many of them display an irresistible whimsicality of thought, often ludicrously and vulgarly expressed.
In the centre, between the knights' stalls, is the royal vault, wherein George II. and his queen, Caroline, are buried, together with the Prince and Princess of Wales, two Dukes of Cumberland, the Duke of York, Prince Frederick William, and the Princesses Amelia, Caroline, Elizabeth, Louisa, and Anne.
An amusing story with reference to the royal vault is told by Mr. J. Timbs, in his work on "London and Westminster," quoted from Sinclair's "Invisible World." The substance of the narrative is that five or six gentlemen who had dined together at a tavern afterwards paid a visit to the royal vault. Returning to the tavern, their conversation turned upon apparitions and a future state, when one among them, who was an infidel in such matters, took upon himself to rally the others, who seemed rather inclined to a contrary opinion. To end the contest, they proposed to him a wager of twenty guineas that he had not courage enough to go alone at midnight into the vault of Henry VII.'s Chapel. This he at once accepted; the money was forthwith deposited in the hands of the landlord of the house, and the party set out, after having engaged one of the vergers to attend the adventurous gentleman to the gate of the chapel, there to shut him in and to await his return. It had been arranged that the gentleman should stick the blade of his penknife in the earth of the vault, and leave it there, so that it might be found the next morning. It was agreed that his friends should remain for him at the door. Every step he took had its echo; and the lamp which the verger had left burning before the door of the chapel, by its faint glimmer, added to the solemnity of the scene. "At length," runs the narrative, "sometimes groping his way, and sometimes directed by the distant lamp, he reached the entrance of the vault. His inward tremor increased, yet, determined not to be overpowered by it, he descended, and having reached the last stair, stooped forward and stuck his penknife into the earth; but as he was rising to turn back and leave the vault, he felt something, as he thought, suddenly catch hold of him and pluck him forward. He lost in an instant everything that could support him, and fell into a swoon, with his head in the vault, and part of his body on the stairs."
His friends waited patiently till one o'clock, when, not making his appearance, they resolved to enter the Abbey with the verger, in search of him. On reaching the stairs of the vault and looking down, they saw the condition he was in. All attempts to restore him were in vain, till they got out of the Abbey, when the fresh air recovered him. He was afterwards taken to a tavern, when he related the circumstances as above described, adding that "he had neither seen nor heard anything, but that his reason might easily account for; but should have returned with the same sentiments he went with, had not this unseen hand convinced him of the injustice of his unbelief.
"One of the company now saw the penknife sticking through the fore-lappet of his coat, on which, presently conjecturing the truth, and finding how deeply affected his friend was by his mistake, as, indeed, were all the rest, not doubting but his return had been impeded by a supernatural hand, he plucked out the penknife before them all, and said, 'Here is the mystery discovered. In the attitude of stooping to stick this into the ground it happened, as you see, to pass through the coat; and on your attempting to rise, the terror you were in magnified this little obstruction into an imaginary impossibility of withdrawing yourself.'
Near the slab marking the entrance to the royal vault, Edward VI., grandson of the founder of this chapel, was buried, in 1553. The site is now covered by a communion-table, on which is a Latin inscription to the following effect:—"In place of the ancient altar, destroyed in the Civil Wars, to the honour of God and in pious memory of Edward VI., who is buried beneath, this holy table, in a gentler age, was placed by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D.D., Dean of Westminster, 1870." The beautifully carved frieze of the lost altar was found, in 1869, in Edward VI.'s grave, and has been placed upon the marble slab which covers the new table.
The altar here alluded to was composed of a single piece of basaltic stone, known as touchstone. To this altar Henry in his will bequeathed "One grete piece of the holie crosse, which by the high provision of our Lord God was conveied, bought, and delivered to us from the isle of Cyo in Grece, set in gold and garnished with perles and precious stones; and also the preciouse relique of one of the legges of St. George, set in silver, parcel gilte, which came into the hands of our broder and cousyn Lewys of France, the time that he wan and recovered the citie of Millein, and given and sent to us by our cousyn the Cardinal of Amboise."
The first occasion on which the new communiontable was used was in 1870, when the Dean administered the holy sacrament to the revisers of the New Testament, preparatory to commencing their labours. The committee appointed by Convocation for the revision of the authorised version of the Scriptures had invited other scholars and divines to join them, many of whom accepted the invitation. "In front of this table, then, round the grave of the youthful Protestant king in whose reign the English Bible first received its acknowledged place in the coronation of the sovereign, as well as its free and general circulation throughout the people, knelt together the band of scholars and divines, consisting of representatives of almost every form of Christian belief in England. There were bishops, deans, doctors of the universities, clergymen of parishes in England and Scotland, members of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the chief denominations in England."
This was not the only religious ceremony that has taken place here, apart from the installation of the Knights of the Bath, since the time of the Reformation, for in Henry VII.'s Chapel, as we learn from John Evelyn, the nephew of the diarist, "John Evelyn of Wotton, Esq., was married by the Bishop of Rochester to the daughter and heyre (sic) of Mr. Eversfield, of Sussex; her fortune £8,000."
At the back of the table is the principal object of interest in this chapel, as well for antiquity as for fine workmanship—namely, the magnificent tomb of Henry VII. and Elizabeth his queen. The monument is enclosed within a curious brass screen, or "chantry," ornamented with statues; the royal pair, in their robes of state, lie on an elaborate tomb of black marble, at the corners of which are cherubs in a kneeling or sitting position. The statues, of bronze gilt, as well as the general accessories, were designed by the famous Italian sculptor, Torregiano, the contemporary and rival of Michael Angelo. Lord Bacon calls this monument "one of the stateliest and daintiest tombs in England."
Extending from the north to the south aisles,
and forming the semi-circular termination of the
fabric, are five deep recesses or "chapels." The
first of these, on the north side, contains the monument of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham—the "Steenie" and favourite of James I. and the
companion of Charles I. The duke and his
duchess, dressed in the costume of the time, are
represented recumbent, side by side, on a table
tomb, over a sarcophagus. The monument, which
fills almost the entire recess, is carried at the back
up to the top of the vaulting. At the four angles
are figures in brass, above life-size, of Neptune,
Mars, Minerva, and another, said to be emblematic of Benevolence; and the remainder of the
work is composed of a variety of designs in arms,
crests, mottoes, scrolls, &c. It will be remembered
by every reader of history that the duke fell a
victim to national resentment, in 1628, having
perished at Portsmouth by the hand of the assassin
Felton. In the next recess is the monument of
John Sheffield, another Duke of Buckingham,
where, on an altar of the finest-grained marble,
lies, in a half-raised posture, his grace's effigy, in a
Roman habit, with his duchess, Catherine, natural
daughter of the Duke of York, afterwards King
James II., sitting at his feet weeping. In the reign
of Charles II., as the inscription sets forth, "he was
General of the Dutch troop of horse, Governor of
Kingston Castle upon Hull, and First Gentleman
of the Bedchamber; in that of King James II.,
Lord Chamberlain; and in that of Queen Anne,
Lord Privy Seal, and President of the Council.
He was in his youth an excellent poet, and in his
more advanced years a fine writer. His love of
poetry is conspicuous, by the esteem and regard he
had for the two great masters of it, who flourished
in his own time, Dryden and Pope, to the first of
whom he extended his friendship, even after death,
by erecting a monument to his memory. To the
latter he did honour, by writing a poem in his
praise." Over his grace's effigy are inscribed, in
Latin, sentences to the following import:—
"I liv'd doubtful, not dissolute,
I die unresolv'd, not unresign'd.
Ignorance and error are incident to human nature.
I trust in an almighty and all-good God.
O! thou Being of Beings, have compassion on me!"
His grace died in the seventy-fourth year of his
age, February 24th, 1720. He was the patron of
Dryden, and his monument here bears the wellknown line, "Dubius, sed non improbus, vixi."
This inscription suggested to Matthew Prior his
epigram on the duke's burial here, at which
Bishop Atterbury, as Dean of Westminster, was
the officiating minister:—
" 'I have no hope,' the duke he says, and dies;
'In sure and certain hope,' the prelate cries;
Of these two learned peers, I prythee, say man,
Who is the lying knave, the priest or layman?
The duke he stands an infidel confest,
'He's our "dear brother,"' quoth the lordly priest;
The duke, though knave, still 'brother dear,' he cries,
And who can say the reverend prelate lies?"
The ceremony of the duke's state funeral was pompous enough; but it is not a little strange to find Dr. Atterbury writing on the subject to Pope in terms which imply that he thought it a sham and unreality. "To-morrow I go to the deanery, and I believe I shall stay there till I have said 'dust to dust,' and shut up that last scene of pompous vanity." Pope, in writing back to his friend, simply says that "at the time of the duke's funeral he means to lie at the deanery" too, and to "moralise one evening with his clerical friend on the vanity of human glory."
The remains of James I. are interred in the tomb of Henry VII., whilst those of his queen, Anne of Denmark, repose in a tomb in front of the monument of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. The central recess is empty, but the one next to it, on the south side, contains the tomb of Anthony Philip, Duke de Montpensier, who died in 1807. He was second son of the Duke of Orleans, and brother of Louis Philippe, afterwards king of the French. The marble effigy of the duke, by Sir Richard Westmacott, lies extended on a low altartomb; he is represented with ducal coronet and robes, and the expression is altogether one of dignity and repose.
The fifth recess, forming the east end of the south aisle, is almost filled with the enormous quadrangular tomb of Lewis, Duke of Richmond, and Frances, his wife. They are represented as lying on a marble table, under a canopy of brass, curiously wrought, and supported by the figures of Faith, Hope, Charity, and Prudence. On the top is a figure of Fame taking her flight, and resting only on her toe. This illustrious nobleman was son of Esme Stuart, Duke of Lenox, and grandson of James, nephew of King James I., to whom he was first Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Privy Councillor, a Knight of the Garter, and Ambassador to France in behalf of Scotland. He died February the 16th, 1623. His lady was daughter of Thomas Lord Howard, of Bindon, son of the Duke of Norfolk, by Elizabeth, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham. She died October 8th, 1639. The east side of the chapel is defaced by a clumsy pyramid of black and white marble supporting a small urn containing the heart of Esme Stuart, son of the Duke of Richmond and Lenox, by the Lady Mary, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for the year 1784, it is remarked that "much has been said about the Spanish ambassadors in one of the chapels of Westminster Abbey, who are said to have been kept above ground for debt, but this story also, we have no doubt, may be classed among the vulgar errors." It is certain that one ambassador was kept unburied from 1691 to 1708, the date of the "New View," in which Hatton mentions that "in a feretory in the Duke of Richmond's little chapel, by his tomb, lieth visibly a coffin covered with red leather, and unburied, wherein is the corpse of Don Pedro de Ronquillo, Conde de Grenado, del con Sexo de Estado, &c., Ambassador Extraordinary from Spain to King James II., and to King William and Mary, ob. 1691" (ii. 514). "It is not improbable," observes Mr. Mackenzie Walcott, "that there was some difficulty raised about the burial service by the friends of the departed ambassador."
The body of Oliver Cromwell, together with those of four of his family, and six officers, was buried in the vault at the end of Henry VII.'s Chapel; but their remains were removed with every possible indignity at the Restoration. There has always existed a lurking tradition that when Cromwell's body was dug up from its grave here, and thrown into a ditch at Tyburn, it was not allowed to remain there by his followers, but that they carried it away, and secretly gave it the rites of a decent sepulture. It has often been said that the place where it was laid is the centre of Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury. Others state that, for greater security, it was thrown into the Thames. The secret of his last resting-place will not be known till the last great day of all.
We now pass into the south aisle, which contains, besides five handsome monuments, the old royal vault, wherein are buried Charles II., William III., and Mary his consort, Queen Anne, and Prince George of Denmark. The first monument is that to Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret, Queen of Scots, by the Earl of Angus. This lady, as the English inscription states, "had to her greatgrandfather King Edward IV., to her grandfather King Henry VII., to her uncle King Henry VIII., to her cousin-german King Edward VI., to her brother King James V. of Scotland, to her son King Henry I. of Scotland, to her grandson King James VI., having to her great-grandmother and grandmother two queens, both named Elizabeth; to her mother, Margaret, Queen of Scots; to her aunt, Mary, the French queen; to her cousinsgerman, Mary and Elizabeth, Queens of England; to her niece and daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots." This lady, who is said to have been very beautiful, was privately married, in the year 1537, to Thomas Howard, son of the Duke of Norfolk, upon which account both of them were committed to the Tower by King Henry VIII., her uncle, for affiancing without his consent, and he died in prison; but Margaret, being released, was soon after married to Matthew, Earl of Lenox, and became the mother of Lord Darnley, who, having married Mary Queen of Scots, was the father of King James I.
Next is the magnificent monument of Mary Queen of Scots, which was erected by her son, James I., soon after his accession to the English throne. The unfortunate queen was beheaded in the hall of Fotheringay Castle, in Northamptonshire, in 1587, and her remains were first buried in Peterborough Cathedral; but James had her body privately removed to this church in 1612, under the superintendence of Dr. Neile, then Dean of Westminster, and buried in a vault beneath this monument. This tomb contains also the remains of the children of James I., Charles I., and James II.
We now come to another of the monumental works of Torregiano—namely, that of Margaret, Countess of Richmond, the mother of Henry VII. The aged and noble lady, whose effigy is in bronze gilt, is represented in what looks like the dress of a nun or recluse, with a mantle thrown or worn over all. She was married, in 1455, to Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, but in the following year was left a widow, with one son (afterwards Henry VII.). She next became the wife of Sir Henry Stafford, who died in 1481; and in the following year she married Thomas Lord Stanley. In 1505 she founded Christ College, Cambridge, and she died in 1509. St. John's College, Cambridge, was founded in pursuance with her will.
Overlooking this monument is a beautiful piece of sculpture, also the work of an Italian artist, named Valory, to the memory of Catherine, Lady Walpole. The statue stands upon a square pedestal, upon which is an inscription which states that she was the first wife of Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards Earl of Orford, and that " 'Horace, her youngest son,' consecrated this monument," as we have said above. The inscription further sets forth that "she had beauty and wit, without vice or vanity, and cultivated the arts without affectation: she was devout, though without bigotry to any sect; and was without prejudice to any party, though the wife of a minister, whose power she esteemed but when she could employ it to benefit the miserable, or to reward the meritorious; she loved a private life, though born to shine in public; and was an ornament to courts, untainted by them. She died August the 20th, 1737."
The principal monument in the north aisle of Henry VII.'s Chapel is that of Queen Elizabeth. This is a sumptuous and lofty pile, of the Corinthian order, though of far less grandeur than that of her rival and victim, Mary Queen of Scots, in the south aisle. It consists of a low basement, panelled, with projecting pedestals, on which stand ten columns of black marble, with bases of white marble, and gilt capitals; the whole is crowned with a semi-circular canopy. In the recess is a thick slab, supported by four couchant lions, in which is a recumbent figure of the queen, executed in white marble. The inscription, which is in Latin, sets forth "her character, high descent, and the memorable acts of her glorious reign." This monument was erected by James I., at a cost of nearly £1,000.
Queen Mary, side by side with her Protestant sister Elizabeth, rests in the Abbey Church at Westminster, but no storeyed monument, no costly tomb, has been raised to her memory. She was interred with all the solemn funeral rites used by the Roman Church, and a mass of requiem, on the north side of the Chapel of Henry VII. During the reign of her successor not the slightest mark of respect was shown to her memory by the erection of a monument; and even at the present day no other memorial remains to point out the spot where she lies, except two small black tablets at the west base of the sumptuous tomb erected by order of King James I. over the ashes of Elizabeth, and her less fortunate sister. On them we read as follows:—
|REGNO CONSORTES ET VRNA HIT OBDORMIMUS ELIZABETHA||ET MARIA SORORES IN SPE RESVRRECTIONIS|
The little recess at the end of the north aisle, where the altar stood, contains a memorial erected by Charles II. to the memory of Edward V. and his brother Richard, Duke of York, who were suffocated in the Tower by order of their usurping uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. The bones of the two princes, after lying there for nearly two hundred years, were discovered in 1674, buried beneath the stairs in the White Tower. It is remarkable that Edward was born within the precincts of Westminster Abbey, whither his mother had fled for sanctuary, in 1471, during the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster. At eleven years of age, upon the death of his father, in 1483, he was proclaimed king, and on the 23rd of June, in the same year, he was murdered in the manner above related. Richard, his brother, was born in May, 1474, and was married while a child to Ann Mowbray.
The spot, it would seem, is peculiarly appropriated for children, for here lie Sophia and Mary, daughters of James I. The former is commemorated by a child in a cradle, and the latter by a pretty little altar-tomb, on which reposes the effigy of an infant. This aisle contains also two other tombs, an exceedingly heavy one to George Saville, Marquis of Halifax, and another to Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax. In front of the latter monument Joseph Addison is buried, and to mark the spot a slab of white marble, inlaid with brass letters and devices, was placed here by the late Earl of Ellesmere, in 1849.
The Chapel of St. Paul, which is first on the north side of the Abbey after leaving that of Henry VII., contains a few monuments of interest or singularity, but space does not admit of our mentioning more than one or two. One of these is to the memory of Charles Holmes, Esq., Rear Admiral of the White, and commander of his Majesty's fleet stationed in Jamaica. It consists of a great statue of the admiral encased in Roman armour, and resting against an English eighteenpounder mounted on a sea-carriage. Under a plain arch in the wall are the effigies of Sir John Fullerton and his lady, with an inscription stating that his "remnant" lies here. The epitaph tells us further that Sir John Fullerton was "a generous rewarder of all virtue, a severe reprover of all vice, a professed renouncer of all vanity. He was a firm pillar to the Commonwealth, a faithful patron to the Catholic Church, a fair pattern to the British Court. He lived to the welfare of his country, to the honour of his prince, to the glory of his God. He died fuller of faith than of fear, fuller of consolation than of pains, fuller of honour than of days." In this chapel is buried the learned Archbishop Ussher, whose funeral was celebrated with great pomp, partly—but only in part—at the cost of the Lord Protector Cromwell. This chapel contains also a monument by Chantrey to James Watt, the inventor of the steam-engine, "who" (to adopt the language of the inscription placed here by Lord Brougham), "directing the force of an original genius early exercised in philosophical research to the improvement of the steam-engine, enlarged the resources of his country, increased the power of man, and rose to an eminent place among the most illustrious followers of science, and the real benefactors of the world. Born at Greenock in 1736, he died at Heathfield, in Staffordshire, in 1819." This monument was erected in 1824 by public subscription, and is generally regarded as one of Chantrey's most successful works.
We now pass into the Chapel of Edward the Confessor—or, as it is sometimes called, the Chapel of the Kings—where we find the first regal monument, in point of date, having an effigy on it. It is that of the founder of the present fabric, Henry III., who died in 1272–3. The tomb is on the north side of the chapel, and was erected a few years after his death by his son and successor, Edward I. The workmanship and materials of this tomb are remarkable. The panels at the sides are of polished porphyry, surrounded by a framework of mosaic, with gilding and coloured stones. At each corner are twisted columns of variously-coloured marbles. On the top is a recumbent figure of the king, crowned, and habited in regal costume; it is of bronze gilt, and finely executed. This effigy is said by Walpole (who, by the way, does not mention his authority) to be considered the first example of metal-casting in England. The monument immediately adjoining is that of Queen Eleanor, the wife of Edward I., and merits attention for the extraordinary elegance and beauty displayed in its details.
Occupying the space between the two easternmost pillars of this chapel, is the chantry of the gallant prince, Henry V., the hero of Agincourt, on each side of which are images as large as life, guarding, as it were, the staircases ascending to it. Beneath is the tomb of the king, with his effigy, or, rather, what now remains of it. It is of oak, much mutilated, and headless. It is said originally to have been plated with silver gilt, and that the head was solid silver. Nothing is now left of the work but the rude wooden form upon which the "fine embroydered and gilded plates" were fastened. According to Camden, the head was gone when he wrote his "Britannia," in the reign of Elizabeth; it is said to have been stolen at the Reformation. Above the chantry are preserved the saddle, helmet, and shield of Henry V., supposed to have been used at Agincourt, and brought hither at his interment. This tomb was built by Henry VII., in compliment to his illustrious predecessor. "His Queen Catharine," writes Pennant, "had before erected his monument, and placed his image, cut in heart of oak and covered over with silver, on an altar-tomb. The head, as the guide tells us, was of solid silver, and was sacrilegiously stolen away in the reign of Henry VIII. The headless trunk of wood remains. On each side of this royal chapel is a winding staircase, enclosing a turret of open ironwork, which leads up into a chantry founded for the purpose of masses for the repose of the soul of that great prince. . . . . Here is kept a parcel of human figures, which in old times were dressed out and carried at funeral processions, but at present have very deservedly got the name of 'the ragged regiment.'" The collection of figures here alluded to, we may add, are now preserved over Islip's Chapel, where we shall presently find them.
"In the chapel of Henry V.," says Pennant, "among the other statues, is one of St. Denis of France, 'most composedly carrying his head in his hand.'" On the south side of the chantry is a representation of his coronation, and the figure of Henry himself is distinguished by a wen under his chin, which no doubt was taken from the life.
But little respect was paid by Henry VII. to his grandmother, Catharine, the consort of Henry V., who had sunk from being the queen-consort of the conqueror of France to the wife of a plain gentleman. Though she gave to England a long line of sovereigns, her grandson, on pulling down the old Lady Chapel, where she was buried, ungratefully neglected to honour her remains, but suffered them, as we are told, to be carelessly flung into a wooden chest, and they are now interred near the tomb of her husband.
The next monuments particularly worthy of remark are in memory of the glorious warrior, Edward III., his Queen Philippa, and two of their children. Edward died in 1377, and his effigy, of bronze, lies on a table of the same metal, and the whole has been richly gilt. In the statue, says Professor Westmacott, "there is evidence of great care in the portraiture of the deceased monarch. The face is long, and there is a remarkable fall in the lower lip; the hair is also, doubtless, represented as worn by the king; it is long, and slightly curling, and the beard is ample and flowing. Altogether, it is an interesting example of attention to nature in transmitting to posterity the likeness of one of England's greatest sovereigns. . . . . Among the careful details, it will be observed the shoes are what are now termed 'rights and lefts,' erroneously believed to be a very modern fashion of shoemaking." This tomb, like all others in the Abbey, has suffered greatly from neglect and ill treatment; much of its enrichment has disappeared, together with many of the numerous small brazen statues that decorated it. Six of these small statues remain, however, on the south side of the tomb—namely, those representing Edward, Joan de la Tour, Lionel, Edmund, Mary, and William. The tomb of Edward III. is thus mentioned by Addison, in the Spectator: "Sir Roger (de Coverley) in the next place laid his head upon Edward III.'s sword, and leaning upon the pommel of it, gave the history of the Black Prince, concluding that in Sir Richard Baker's opinion Edward III. was one of the greatest princes that ever sate on the English throne."
"His figure at full length, made of copper once
gilt," writes Pennant, "lies beneath a rich Gothic
shrine of the same material. His hair is dishevelled,
his beard long and flowing. The figures of his
children surround the altar-tomb. His worthy
queen, Philippa, was interred at his feet, and her
figure in alabaster represents her as a most masculine woman. The latter end of the king was
marked by misfortunes, by the death of his son the
Black Prince, by a raging pestilence, and, above
all, by his unseasonable love in the years of his
dotage." How finely does the poet Gray paint the
scene of his death, and the gay entrance of his
successor into power, in the bitter taunt which he
puts into the mouth of a British bard:—
"Mighty victor! mighty lord,
Low on his funeral couch he lies;
No pitying heart nor eye afford
A tear to grace his obsequies.
Is the sable warrior fled?
Thy son is gone: he rests among the dead!
The swarm that in thy noontide beam were born?
Gone to salute the rising morn.
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,
While, proudly riding o'er the azure realm,
In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes,
Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm,
Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway
That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey."
The tomb is covered with a Gothic canopy, as is also that adjoining, which covers the remains of Queen Philippa, the consort of Edward III. She was the third daughter of William Earl of Hainault; and Harding tells us that when an embassy was sent by Edward to choose one of the earl's daughters, a certain English bishop advised him to select the lady of the largest frame, as promising a numerous progeny. The good bishop seems to have been a good judge, for she died in 1369, having borne to her sovereign lord a family of no less than fourteen children. The effigy on her tomb, though injured, is still in a condition to afford a good idea of her person, as well as of the art of the day; and the costume, especially the cushioned headdress, "gives great antiquarian value to this monument."
The tomb at the south-western corner of the chapel is that of Richard II. and Anne, his queen. Over it is a wooden canopy, remarkable for a curious painting of the Virgin Mary and our Saviour, remains of which are still visible upon it. His figure, and that of his first consort, Anne, daughter of the King of Bohemia, are of copper, and were once richly gilt. We are told that the king ordered these to be made in his lifetime by one of the goldsmiths in Wood Street, and that the expense of gilding them alone was 400 marks. Pennant draws attention to the fact that the king's countenance here is very unlike that shown in his portrait painted, of which we have spoken elsewhere.
Close by the screen separating this chapel from the sacrarium of the Abbey are the coronation chairs, together with the shield and sword of state carried before Edward III. in France. The most ancient of the coronation chairs was brought with the regalia from Scotland by Edward I., in 1297, and offered at the shrine of St. Edward. An oblong rough stone, brought from Scone, in Scotland, is placed underneath the chair. In this chair all the reigning sovereigns of England have been crowned since Edward I. The old legend of the origin of the chair of King Edward cannot be better told than in the words of Addison, in the Spectator, though somewhat comically put together:—"We were then conveyed to the two coronation chairs, where my old friend (Sir Roger de Coverley), after having heard that the stone underneath the most ancient of them, which was brought from Scotland, was called Jacob's Pillow, sate himself down in the chair, and, looking like the figure of an old Gothic king, asked our interpreter what authority they had to say that Jacob had ever been in Scotland? The fellow, instead of returning him an answer, told him that he hoped his honour would pay the forfeit. I could observe Sir Roger a little ruffled at being thus trepanned; but our guide not insisting upon his demand, the knight soon recovered his good humour, and whispered in my ear that if Will Wimble were with us, and saw these two chairs, it would go hard but he would get a tobacco-stopper out of one or t'other of them."
Both chairs are of architectural design; the ancient one is supported upon four lions, but otherwise they are somewhat similar in appearance. The more modern of the two coronation chairs was made for the use of Mary II., when crowned along with her consort, William III. It may be added here that at the coronations of our kings and queens one or both, as circumstances may require, are richly covered with gold-beaten tissue, cushioned, and are placed in front of the altar.
"In May, 1774, the Society of Antiquaries having found it mentioned in Rymer's 'Fœdera,' that King Edward I., surnamed 'Long Shanks,' was interred in a stone coffin, inclosed in a stone tomb, in the above chapel, and that he was done over with wax, and a sum of money allowed to preserve the tomb, determined to gratify their curiosity by endeavouring to discover the truth of it. Accordingly, they applied to the Dean of Westminster for leave to have the tomb opened. The dean, being desirous to give all encouragement to curious researches, readily complied with their request. At the time appointed for opening the tomb, the dean, with about fifteen of the society, attended, when, to their great astonishment, they found the royal corpse to appear as represented by the historian (sic). He had on a gold and silver tissue robe, over which was a very handsome one of crimson velvet, both of them quite fresh, and the jewels that were about him appeared exceedingly bright. He had in one hand a sceptre and dove, and in the other a sceptre and cross, which measured near five feet in length. The crown on his head being raised, the skull appeared bare; but the face and hands seemed perfectly entire. He measured in length 6 feet 2 inches. The king died on the 7th of July, 1307."
There is extant a minute description of the tomb and its contents, by Sir Joseph Ayloffe, an antiquary, who was present. "On lifting up the lid of the tomb the royal body was found wrapped in a strong and thick linen cloth, waxed on the inside: the head and face were covered with a sudarium or face-cloth of crimson sarsinet wrapped to three folds, conformable to the napkin used by our Saviour in his way to crucifixion . . . . On flinging open the external mantle, the corpse was discovered in all the ensigns of majesty, richly habited. The body was wrapped in a fine linencere-cloth, closely fitted to every part of the body, even to the very fingers and face. The writs ordering the renewal of the waxen covering of the body of King Edward I. being extant, gave rise to this search. (They will be found in the third volume of the 'Archæologia'). Over the cerecloth was a tunic of red silk damask; above that a stole of thick white tissue crossed the breast, and on this, at six inches distant from each other, quatrefoils of filigree-work of gilt metal set with stones, imitating rubies, sapphires, amethysts, &c.; and the intervals between the quatrefoils on the stole powdered with minute white beads, tacked down into a most elegant embroidery, in form not unlike what is called the 'true lovers' knot.' Above these habits was the royal mantle of rich crimson satin, fastened on the left shoulder with a magnificent fibula, of gilt metal richly chased, and ornamented with four pieces of red and four of blue transparent paste, and twenty-four more pearls. The corpse from the waist downwards was covered with a rich cloth of figured gold, which fell down to the feet and was tucked beneath them. On the back of each hand was a quatrefoil, like those on the stole. In the king's right hand was a sceptre with a cross of copper gilt, and of elegant workmanship, reaching to the right shoulder. In the left hand was the rod and dove, which passed over the shoulder and reached to the ear. The dove stood on a ball placed on three ranges of oakleaves of enamelled green; the dove was of white enamel. On the head was a crown chased with trefoils made of gilt metal. The head itself was lodged in the cavity of the stone coffin, always observable in those receptacles of the dead. . . . . The corpse was dressed in conformity with ancient usage even as early as the time of the Saxon Sebert." It may be added that the dress is represented with tolerable accuracy on a seal of Edward himself, to be seen in Sandford's "Genealogy."
This tomb, which is very plain, and has,
apparently, sustained very little injury, is in the
north-western corner of the chapel. It bears the
following apposite inscription:—
"Edvardus primus, Scotorum malleus, hic est."
Along the frieze of the screen of this chapel are fourteen legendary sculptures, respecting the Confessor. The first is the trial of Queen Emma; the next the birth of Edward; another is his coronation; the fourth tells us how our saint was frightened into the abolition of the Dane-gelt, by his seeing the devil dance upon the money-casks; the fifth is the story of his winking at the thief who was robbing his treasure; the sixth is meant to relate the appearance of our Saviour to him; the seventh shows how the invasion of England was frustrated by the drowning of the Danish king; in the eighth is seen the quarrel between the boys Tosti and Harold, predicting their respective fates; in the ninth sculpture is the Confessor's vision of the seven sleepers; the tenth shows how he met St. John the Evangelist in the guise of a pilgrim; the eleventh, how the blind were cured by their eyes being washed in his dirty water; the twelfth, how St. John delivered to the pilgrims a ring; in the thirteenth they deliver the ring to the king, which he had unknowingly given to St. John as an alms, when he met him in the form of a pilgrim; this was attended with a message from the saint, foretelling the death of the king; and the fourteenth shows the consequential haste made by him to complete his pious foundation.
The following, according to Dugdale, is the story of the benefactions of Edward the Confessor to the Abbey:—The king, while in exile during the usurpation of the Danes, made a vow that if it should please God to restore him to the throne of his father, he would go in pilgrimage to Rome. Soon after his coronation, he made his intention known to the principal nobility, who, partly fearing disturbances in the absence of the king, and partly dreading a contest for the succession should he die upon the journey, endeavoured to dissuade him from it. Aelred, Archbishop of York, and Harman, Bishop of Winchester, with two abbots of monasteries, are stated to have been sent on an embassy to Rome, to procure the Pope's absolution from the vow; they returned with a rescript from Pope Leo IX., enjoining the king, by way of commutation, to expend the sums of money intended for his journey in the foundation or repair of some religious house dedicated to St. Peter. A revelation made to one Wolfine, or Wulsina, a monk of Worcester, is said to have determined the king to bestow his benefactions at Westminster.
In the centre of this chapel stands the shrine of Edward the Confessor. This venerable curiosity, though now much mutilated, still enables us to form an opinion of its former richness and beauty. It was erected by Henry III. on the canonising of Edward, King of England, by Pope Alexander III., who caused his name to be placed in the catalogue of saints, and issued his bull to the Abbot Laurence and Convent of Westminster, enjoining "that his body be honoured here on earth, as his soul is glorified in heaven." The shrine was the work of the Italian artist Cavallini. Before this shrine was formerly kept a lamp continually burning, on one side of which stood a figure of the Virgin, wrought in silver, which, with two jewels of immense value, were presented as an offering by Queen Eleanor. On the other side stood another image of the Virgin, wrought in ivory, presented by Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. At this shrine Edward I. offered the Scottish regalia, and the coronation chair, which is still preserved. Alphonso, about the year 1280, offered here the golden coronet of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, and other jewels. It is painful to witness the damage which has been done to this and several of the surrounding monuments, which were originally enriched with so much cost and art.
The stonework of Edward the Confessor's shrine is hollow within, and now encloses a large chest, which, soon after the coronation of James II., was found to contain the remains of St. Edward; for being broken (it is said) by accident, upon turning up the bones, a crucifix, richly ornamented and enamelled, was discovered, together with a gold chain twenty inches long, both of which were presented to his Majesty, who ordered the bones to be replaced in the old coffin and enclosed in a new one, made very strong. The coffin containing the king's remains is suspended by iron rods, firmly inserted in the stonework, at about half the depth of the shrine; and may be seen from the parapet of Henry VII.'s Chapel. On the south side of the shrine lies interred Editha, daughter of Goodwyn, Earl of Kent, and consort of St. Edward.
It is almost superfluous to state that the shrine of St. Edward, all through the Middle Ages, was a constant object of pilgrimages from all parts of England, though his tomb was never so popular as that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; and even since the Reformation it is frequently visited by Roman Catholics, who make it a matter of conscience to offer up a prayer at the foot of the coffin which still holds the saint's bones.
The Chapel of St. John, which we next enter, contains little or nothing to call for particular mention here beyond the monuments to the memory of Henry Carey; of Lord Hunsdon, first cousin and also chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth; and of Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter. The tomb of the Earl of Exeter is in the middle of the chapel; on it is his effigy, with a lady on his right side and a vacant space on his left for another; the lady is his first wife, Dorothy Nevil, daughter and coheiress of Lord Latimer. The vacant space was intended for an effigy of his second wife, Frances Bridget, of the noble family of Chandos; but as the right side was taken up, she gave express orders by her will that her effigy should not be placed on his left. They are all three, nevertheless, buried together in one vault, as the inscription expresses.
The small Chapel of St. John the Baptist, commonly known as Islip's Chapel, formerly contained a monument of Abbot Islip; but almost its only occupants now are the effigies of Sir Christopher Hatton and his lady, which are seen in reclining attitudes on cushions upon a sumptuous tomb of the seventeenth century. In the Islip Chapel is buried also William Pulteney, Earl of Bath. Outside the chapel is his monument, close to that of General Wolfe, the hero of Quebec. Islip's Chapel, we may here remark, is constantly used at the present day; for the bishops who are to be consecrated in the Abbey usually retire to it to put on their "rochets" and the other episcopal vestments.
In a chamber or gallery over Islip's Chapel, not ordinarily accessible to the public, is an exhibition of, perhaps, equal interest to the monuments interspersed throughout the sacred edifice, or rivalling in interest the famous exhibition of a somewhat similar character in Baker Street—that of Madame Tussaud. The collection has received the name of the "Ragged Regiment," and also "the Play of the Dead Volks." For many centuries preceding the present a curious custom prevailed at State funerals—namely, having exposed to view in the funeral car, or carried in the procession, a waxen effigy of the individual whose remains were about to be consigned to the tomb. The head of the defunct monarch, statesman, or warrior was modelled in wax, an effigy was built up, and clad in the actual garments worn by the deceased in his lifetime, but embellished with false gems. When the coffin had been deposited in the vault, the waxen effigy was either placed over the tomb as a sort of temporary substitute for a stone monument, or in some other convenient spot. Several of these effigies are preserved in glass cases like zoological specimens in the narrow chamber above referred to. Taking them in chronological order, the first is a striking effigy of Queen Elizabeth; the pale hawk-like features are deeply cut by sharp lines, the head is surmounted by a diadem, and the whole costume is profusely adorned with gems. Her Majesty is attired in that extravagantly long-waisted dress with which her portraits have made us familiar, and springing from the bodice is a pair of immense panniers which support a ponderous velvet robe, covered with gold embroidery, and trimmed with miniver; around the neck is a curious spreading ruff, stiffened with wire, and from this descends the long, straight, stiff bodice, made stiffer and heavier by a mass of rich silver embroidery.
At a respectful distance from the "Virgin Queen," stands a life-like figure of the "Merry Monarch," Charles II. A more distinct gleam of humour, however, is perceptible in this old waxen version of the founder of the Royal Society than in the portrait, by Lely, hanging in the reception-room of that learned body; but the main characteristics of the portrait and the image—the dark brow, the soft, melancholy eye, the disproportionately-long, straight nose, and the heavy under lip—are identical. The king is clad in a curious raiment of red and blue velvet, sorely faded from its ancient splendour, and the royal head is topped by a limplooking hat and a tawdry feather.
Space does not admit of our giving a detailed account of this curious and interesting collection of wax figures; suffice it to say that it is not strictly confined to royal personages, for—apart from King William III. and his buxom queen Mary, and another effigy, superb in robes and strings of false jewellery, the counterfeit presentment of Queen Anne—we have here a recumbent figure of John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, and near him are his duchess and child. The lady is attired in a curiously long-waisted bodice much bejewelled, and wears a robe of remarkable brocade, wherein may be distinguished bridges, rivers, and verdant lawns, all coloured, as the heralds say, "proper." Then there are a Duchess of Richmond, and the elder Pitt, Lord Chatham, erect in his scarlet robes. Lastly, one more figure attracts attention. It is but a frail figure at best, but represents one "whose little body held a mighty mind." A huge cocked hat overshadows a pale, worn face of sweet expression; the lower limbs are slender and clad in white kerseymere and silk; a strange-looking blue coat, adorned with an immense quantity of gold lace and curious flat buttons, covers the superior part of the body, and is, on the left breast, marked by a galaxy of stars; the right sleeve of the quaint coat is armless;—the reader will hardly need be told that this is the effigy of a mighty man of valour—Lord Nelson.
Facing the entrance to the chapels we have just quitted, and occupying the north side of the sacrarium, are three tombs which form admirable illustrations of the elegant and yet rich style of monumental art of their time; they are those of Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster, son of Edward II.; of Aveline, his wife (1275); and that of Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke (1323). There is so much similarity in the general design, that, as Professor Westmacott remarks, "it might fairly be imagined that the same artists were employed on all three works." In each case the monument consists of an altar-tomb, upon which reposes a recumbent figure of the deceased, and they are surmounted by lofty enriched canopies, tapering upwards with every variety of accessorial decoration. The following is Flaxman's criticism on two of these monuments:—"The monuments of Aymer de Valence and Edmund Crouchback are specimens of the magnificence of our sculpture in the reigns of our two first Edwards. The loftiness of the work, the number of arches and pinnacles, the lightness of the spires, the richness and profusion of foliage and crochets, the solemn repose of the principal statue, the delicacy of thought in the group of angels bearing the soul, and the tender sentiment of concern variously expressed in the relations ranged in order round the basement, forcibly arrest the attention, and carry the thoughts not only to other ages, but to other states of existence."
On the floor, near the above monuments, is a slab curiously inlaid with brass, representing John de Eastney, Abbot of Westminster, who died in 1498. In 1706 the grave was opened, and the body of the abbot discovered in a coffin quilted with yellow satin, having on him a gown of crimson silk, with a black girdle round the waist. On his legs were white silk stockings, and over his face a clean napkin, doubled up and laid corner-ways. The face, we are told, was in some degree discoloured, but the legs and arms were firm.
In the united Chapels of St. John the Evangelist, St. Michael, and St. Andrew are two or three particularly striking monuments. The first is to Lord and Lady Norris, who died in 1600. The effigies of both, in alabaster, lie recumbent on a raised tomb, above which is a canopy. On each side of the composition, at the base, are three kneeling figures, life-size, dressed in the armour of the period, representing the six sons of the deceased. Professor Westmacott has remarked with regard to this monument, that although the sculpture is not fine, the motive of the design is good and appropriate. "The effigies of the heads of the family reposing in death, with their sons kneeling and praying around them, is a touching and beautiful subject, well fitted for a mortuary chapel."
The next monument in this chapel to which we shall refer is that of Sir Francis Vere, one of the eminent worthies and warriors of the Elizabethan era. The effigy of the gallant soldier, habited in a loose gown, is recumbent on a low bed or tabletomb. At each corner is a knight, in full armour, kneeling, and supporting on his shoulders a large slab, which forms a canopy over the principal figure. On this are placed various pieces of armour, supposed to have belonged to the great general lying beneath.
On the east side of this chapel is a large monument of later date, by Roubiliac. It is in memory of Joseph Gascoigne Nightingale, Esq., of Minehead, Devonshire, who died in 1752, and the Lady Elizabeth, his wife, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Washington, second Earl Ferrers, who died soon after marriage. In the upper part of the pyramidal composition, the lady is represented expiring in the arms of her husband; whilst in the lower part, a skeleton, partially draped, issues from the gates of a dark tomb, and appears in the act of hurling a dart at the female above. The husband, leaning forward, endeavours to ward off the fatal stroke, with the energy of despair, and extends his hand as a shield or guard between the sinking lady and the weapon of death.
Concerning these two monuments, Mr. Peter Cunningham tells a story in his "Hand-book of London." "When Roubiliac was erecting this monument, he was found one day by Gayfere, the Abbey mason, standing with his arms folded, and his looks fixed on one of the knightly figures which support the canopy over the statue of Sir Francis Vere. As Gayfere approached, the enthusiastic Frenchman laid his hand upon his arm, pointed to the figure, and said, in a whisper, 'Hush! hush! sir, he vill speak presently.'"
On the opposite side of the aisle, on leaving this chapel, we see the monument to the memory of Field-Marshal Lord Ligonier. The inscription is only a recital of his titles and places, his age (92), and the date of his death in April, 1770. On the monument is a likeness of his lordship, in profile, and the medallions of Queen Anne, George I., II., and III., under whom his lordship served. On a scroll held by a figure symbolic of History, is the following list of battles in which he bore a part:—Schellenberg, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudinarde, Taniere, Malplaquet, Dettingen, Fontenoy, Rocoux, and Laffeldt. He was the first Commander-inChief at the Horse Guards. Lord Ligonier, however, was not only a gallant officer, but a wit of no small ability. His regiment (the Fourth Horse) being reviewed by George II. before it was sent on foreign service, the king remarked to him, "Colonel, your men have the air of soldiers, but their horses look poor. How is that?" "Sir," replied Ligonier, "the men are Irish, and gentlemen too; but the horses are English."
Apart from the chapels above spoken of, there is still one more to which we must refer, namely, that dedicated to St. Faith—or, as it is more commonly designated, the Chapel of St. Blaize—at the end of the south transept. The doorway to this ancient chapel is close by the grave of Charles Dickens, and under the great rose window. It is a small oblong chamber, and served for many years as a vestry for the choristers. It is lighted on the south side by two windows in the vestibule of the Chapter House, and by the partially glazed door opening into the transept. For the dedication of the altar, says Sir G. Gilbert Scott, we are indebted to Abbot Ware's "Customs of the Abbey," a work written in the thirteenth century, which narrowly escaped destruction at the burning of the Cottonian Library. The figure painted over the altar had long been said to represent no other than St. Faith; but till the discovery of the entry in Ware's volume, we had no record of such an altar. In that work, however, the altar of St. Faith is stated to be committed to the care of the revestiarius.
Scarcely any of the works executed since Roubiliac's time, however remarkable for other qualities, preserve any of the characteristics appropriate to church monuments. Again, quoting the words of Professor Westmacott, we might add that "it is rare that allusion is made to death, the hope of a future state, or the prayerful last moments of a Christian. The statues have a mere portrait cha racter. The action of the figures has reference only to their worldly business and occupation, and the inscriptions record personal virtues, abilities, and prowess. The compositions are crowded with allegorical figures more or less good, as they are founded on or copied from the antique, and the recondite classical allusions can only be understood by the few. Such scenic designs as those representing Mr. Thynne attacked and murdered in his carriage; of the shipwrecked Admiral Tyrrell ascending out of the sea to heaven, amidst masses of clouds, while on all sides are the most preposterous accessories, including several life-size allegorical figures, prove the low character of monumental design, though they may, and undoubtedly do, show considerable artistic power or ingenuity. Truthfulness and individuality were first sacrificed to the absurd fancy of introducing classical details in the monuments. From ornamental the artist proceeded to personal pseudo-classical decoration, and we find the deceased English nobleman, statesman, or soldier dressed in a Roman cuirass, or toga, or paludamentum, mixed up with modern costume. Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, in the costume of a Roman emperor, attended by his duchess in a court-dress of the time of George I.; the English admiral, Sir Cloudesley Shovel, in a Roman cuirass, sandals, and a full-bottomed wig, in his monument in the south aisle; and many others, equally inconsistent in time and place, show the extent to which this absurd fancy was carried."
With reference to the Gothic or Mediæval monuments in Westminster Abbey, the above writer remarks that, "judged as productions of fine art, it need scarcely be said that they fall far short of the excellence that the remains of sculpture of a much older date show the art was capable of attaining. They have, however, their own peculiar merit, arising out of the sentiment which pervades them, as expressive of certain feelings, and for its appropriateness both to place and object. There is a serious and religious character in the motive of these works which subdues and tranquillises the feelings of those who contemplate them, carrying the reflections of the thoughtful to objects beyond the present. In this respect, however deficient they may be in technical qualities, they fulfil a great purpose, and they stamp the monumental design of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with a principle which must be admitted to be one of high value, and well worthy of attention."
Pennant's remarks on the general character of the sculpture exhibited in the tombs throughout the Abbey are so just and true, that they may well be quoted by us:—"Here may be read an instructive lecture on the progress of these efforts of human skill, from the simple altar-tomb to the most ostentatious products of human vanity. The humble recumbent figure, with uplifted hands, as if deprecating the justice of Heaven for the offences of this mortal state; or the proper kneeling attitude, supplicating that mercy of which the purest must stand in need, may be seen here in various degrees of elegance. The careless lolling attitude of heroes in long gowns and flowing periwigs next succeeds; and, after them, busts or statues vaunting their merits, and attended with such a train of pagan deities as would almost lead us to suppose ourselves in a heathen Pantheon, rather than in a Christian church."
"In the ancient tombs there is a dull uniformity; the sides of the tombs are often embellished with the figures of the offspring of the deceased, often with figures of mourners and weepers, frequently in monastic habits. . . . In the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and James I. begins to appear a ray of taste in the sculptors." He means, of course, that their works begin to show an individuality which we seek in vain in the earlier productions of the chisel. He instances the sons of Henry Lord Norris, and the monument of Sir Francis Vere, in the chapel of St. Andrew; and that of Francis Holles, son of the Earl of Clare, dressed as a Grecian warrior. "The figure," he adds, "of Dr. Busby, Master of Westminster School, who died in 1695, is elegant and spirited. He lies resting on one arm, a pen in one hand and a book in the other, his countenance looking up. His loose dress is very favourable to the sculptor, who has given to it the most graceful flow: the close cap alone is inimical to his art."
Mr. W. Godwin complains, in his "Essay on Sepulchres," published in 1809, of the neglected state of the monuments. He writes: "The tomb of our renowned conqueror, Edward I., in the Abbey, is merely a rude vast pile of stones, with no inscription or record upon it, and which is known only by tradition to cover his ashes. The shrine of Edward the Confessor, erected at a vast expense by Henry III., is robbed and defaced by every comer. How Henry V. came by the loss of his head I do not pretend to explain. Every sort of indecorum has been practised on this venerable pile. The noses of a considerable part of the figures are broken off; and the last time that I was there, I found a little pebble placed by some wanton boy on the tip of the nose of the recumbent figure of Catharine, wife of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, which no one had thought it worth his while to remove." Such complaints, fortunately, are no longer true; for although the chapels and royal tombs are freely open to the inspection of the public one day in each week, the utmost care is now taken by the visitors to preserve and protect them.
As Chamberlain remarks, in his "History of London," "The ravages made within this sacred building by Henry VIII., and the havoc without it, as well as within, during the unhappy civil commotions that defaced the ancient beauty of all the religious houses in the kingdom, can never be recovered."
The following quaint verses on the royal tombs
in Westminster Abbey are taken from a work about
two centuries and a half old; but the sentiments,
though the author of the lines is unknown, belong
to all ages:—
"Mortality, behold and fear;
What a change of flesh is here!
Think how many royal bones
Rest within this heap of stones!
Here, remov'd from beds of ease,
Dainty fare and what might please,
Fretted roofs and costly showes,
To a roof that flats the nose,
Which proclaims 'All flesh is grass!'
How the world's fair glories pass!
That there is no trust in health,
Youth or greatness, age or wealth;
For if such could have reprieved,
Those had been immortal lived.
Know from this the world's a snare;
How that greatness is but care;
How all pleasures are but pain,
And how short they do remain:
For here they lie, had realms and lands,
That now want strength to stir their hands,
Where from their pulpits, ceiled with dust,
They preach, 'In greatness is no trust!'
Here's an acre sown indeed
With the richest royal seed
That the earth did e'er suck in
Since the first man dyed for sin.
Here the bones of birth have cried,
Though gods they were, as men they dyed.
Here are sands, ignoble things!
Dropt from the ruined sides of kings,
With whom the poor man's earth being shown,
The difference is not easy known.
Here's a world of pomp and state
Forgotten, dead, disconsolate!
Think, then, this scithe that mows down kings
Exempts no meaner mortal things.
Then bid the wanton lady tread
Amid the mazes of the dead;
And then, these truly understood,
More shall cool and quench the blood
Than her many sports a day
And her nightly wanton play.
Bid her paint till day of doom,
To this favour she must come,
Bid the merchant gather wealth,
The usurer exact by stealth,
The proud man beat it from his thought;
Yet to this shape must all be brought."
We may conclude this chapter with the remark that whilst London was confined within Temple Bar as its western limits, the glorious old Abbey of Westminster stood surrounded with green fields, and held a position towards the metropolis almost analogous to that of St. Denis, near Paris, in which the Bourbon kings and their immediate relatives for centuries lay buried, till the wild fury of the first French Revolution scattered their ashes to the winds of heaven. Let us hope that no such disaster may happen to the royal dust that lies within these consecrated walls.